Welsh government targets smoking in cars when children present


The Welsh government says it will consider bringing in a ban if smoking rates do not start to fall

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A campaign to stop people smoking in cars when children are travelling has been launched by the Welsh government.

Fresh Start aims to protect youngsters from the effects of second-hand smoke in a confined space.

An outright ban will be considered depending on the success of the three-year campaign.

But Simon Clark from the lobby group Forest said that a ban would be expensive, a step too far and totally unnecessary.

Launching the campaign, chief medical officer for Wales Dr Tony Jewell said children in cars were particularly at risk from second-hand smoke.

"Exposure to these chemicals puts children at risk from a range of conditions, including sudden infant death syndrome and asthma," he said.

"There is robust evidence that the level of toxic chemicals is very high in cars, even with a window open. The Fresh Start Wales campaign aims to make people aware that smoking in cars is dangerous for their passengers, particularly children."


Accusing parents of poisoning their children might seem like an extreme measure - but there seems to be a fair deal of sympathy for this campaign amongst smokers.

Even the lobby group Forest describes smoking in a car with a child as 'inconsiderate' - but it draws the line at any suggestion of a ban.

Any legislation would bring several sticking points - not least the question of how it could be enforced.

The BMA has called for a total ban on smoking in cars, regardless of the occupant's age.

It argues older people are also at risk when inhaling second-hand smoke. But would the public be persuaded?

The Welsh government has settled on a wait and see approach in the hope that their campaign will prove to be an effective way of cutting smoking rates.

First Minister Carwyn Jones said smoking in cars "poisons" children and Wales would not shy away from further legislation.

"A ban on smoking in cars carrying children will be considered later in this five-year term of government if smoking levels do not reduce as a result of the campaign," he said.

"We have commissioned research to measure levels of smoking in cars and public attitudes towards it, which will be revisited throughout the campaign to evaluate its success."

But Mr Clark, of tobacco lobby group Forest, said: "I disagree that they're poisoning children but I support the campaign.

"I think it's important to encourage parents not to smoke in a car where small children are present out of consideration for the child if nothing else."

Mr Clark wanted an assurance from the Welsh government that a ban would not be introduced.

"We think that would be a step too far and totally unnecessary," he said.

"And I think it's outrageous at the way they're treating smokers considering there are 10m smokers throughout the United Kingdom who contribute a massive amount to tobacco taxation - over £10bn a year.

"It's a perfectly legal product and I think it's quite wrong the way smokers have been treated."


  • One in four adults (23%) in Wales smokes, with rates higher in more deprived areas.
  • 11% of 15/16 year old boys and 16% of girls smoke.
  • You Gov Survey for Ash Wales found that four in five Welsh adults strongly agreed or agreed smoking should be banned in cars carrying children younger than 18
  • Smoking in cars is banned in Mauritius whether or not children are present
  • Nine out of the 10 provinces in Canada and six states in Australia have banned smoking in cars

Source: Welsh Government

Dr Iolo Doull, from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health officer for Wales, who has previously called for a total ban in cars, backed the campaign.

"Infants and children exposed to tobacco smoke are more likely to have chest infections, to have ear infections, to be admitted to hospital with wheezing or asthma, and to die of cot death," he said.

Chris Mulholland, head of the British Lung Foundation Wales, said it was vital that the option of a ban remained.

"Poll after poll shows a huge majority of the public would support a ban," she said. "Evidence from other countries shows that legislation has made a big difference in protecting children."

But a spokesman from the motoring organisation the AA questioned how any future ban would be enforced.

"I think it would be done domestically," he said.

"Once you've got a rule there it's easy for mum to tell dad to stop smoking in the car or for granny to tell granddad and so on.

"I don't think it's high on a traffic police officer's list of priorities."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 516.

    I grew up in a smoking house, in the car was the worst - I would cough & eyes would stream. We discussed the carcinogenic effects of smoking back in the 60's but they couldn't stop. Lost both parents to cancer & fully expect to suffer from it myself, from secondary smoking.
    Experience of them lighting up whilst driving would make me say it was more distracting than using a mobile phone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 485.

    if smokings that bad why is it still legal? im not in favour of anyone smoking infront of the kids,ive always tried to hide it. but it happend years ago, its not the be all and end all, will pregnant women be banned form buying booze at a restaurant? no persons under the age of 18 will be admitted to macdonalds? how about stopping traffic in citys? same old pick on the smokers tripe

  • rate this

    Comment number 391.

    I'm a smoker and agree with the ban. I never smoke in the house or in the car. My choice to smoke but I'm not going to make my children breathe in the fumes. I'd go one step further and ban anyone from smoking while driving.

  • rate this

    Comment number 225.

    I am a smoker. I think things like this will die out within a generation. Smoking is becoming socially unacceptable to most people my age (I'm 30) but the generation before me smoke in front of children etc without thinking, in my experience. My friend often has to take her baby out of a room as her mother lights up without giving it a second thought. Once she done it while holding her!

  • rate this

    Comment number 152.

    As a child I was subjected to my parents smoking in the car with me. I hated it and complained every time but was told off for making a fuss. I think a law is long overdue. Although many smokers are considerate there are many who are not and a law may make them think twice. At the moment they put their own selfish right to smoke above the right of thier children to unpoisened air.


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